Jacket or Backplate and Wing?

By July 14, 2015Dive Talk

The ultimate BCD choice: Jacket or Backplate and Wing?

Many of my students ask me why I have a ‘different’ BCD. To clarify: I dive with an Aquamundo aluminium backplate and wing. They ask me what the benefits are and if those steel bolts don’t hurt my back. My answer is always the same: I like the minimalistic design and the elimination of the need for extra led weights and the type of design makes sure that those bolts don’t touch my back.
Like most divers I also started my PADI Open Water Course with a jacket style BCD. When you are a novice diver it is mostly the only type that you are exposed to. Still only a few dive instructors teach their courses in a backplate and wing BCD, but it is on its way back.

Originally introduced in the world of technical diving, the backplate and wing has been making its way into the recreational diving market in the past few years. For novice divers the backplate and wing seems like a difficult operating system, so for all my Open Water Courses I still have my students wear a jacket style BCD. For Advanced Open Water I like to give my students the choice. Most still opt for the familiar jacket style, but there are definitely a few that are intrigued by the backplate and wing and take it out for a Peak Performance Buoyancy dive. It is a whole new thing to get used to, because the bladder is located on your back instead of around you. This has massively improved my trim after a bit of practice. I’ve got to admit that the first five dives were a bit uncomfortable. The transition isn’t the easiest, so I’ll say to all of you out there that have tried it only once and didn’t enjoy it: try it for at least 5-10 dives and I’m sure you’ll be joining us backplate and wing lovers.

One of the things that the naysayers are bringing up is the lack of pockets. Luckily Apeks, Scubapro, Aquamundo, Waterproof, Halcyon to name a few have invented some nice shorts and wetsuits with pockets attached to them. Also you can purchase pockets to attach to your harness, so problem solved.

Another problem for some seems to be the weight. Many divers tend to travel around with their gear. Now depending on what kind of material you choose for your backplate (aluminium versus steel), it’s not that big of a difference with the jacket style BCD especially looking at the massive shapes the jackets are being made in now. My backplate and wing can be taken apart completely, roll up the straps of the harness, fold the bladder into a small package and stick the backplate somewhere in between my clothes. So it might be a little heavier but is nowhere near as bulky… There are less colossal BCDs around, but many travel light jackets are not as durable.

Quite curious: still leaning towards the jacket BCD or did I persuade you?

Always wanted to try a backplate and wing but didn’t dare to purchase one yet? Come on down to Liquid and get out diving with one of our PADI Instructors or Divemasters, we’ll convince you that this is the best way to go!